With Halloween approaching, the Affy Tapple factory in Niles is busy rolling apples in caramel and shipping them out to grocery stores in the Midwest--just as they always have.
Now, however, the company has introduced new high-end chocolates and toffees in its upscale Mrs. Prindable's line, to complement that brand's gourmet jumbo caramel apples.
"We're trying to take the expertise we have around caramel and chocolate and expand it to other products," said Todd McClamroch, vice president of marketing.
The new confections, created by a team of culinary experts, include truffles, toffee and pretzel bites. The truffles include foodie flavors like Madagascar vanilla, ancho chile, curry coconut and sea salt caramel, as well as reliables such as Irish cream and red raspberry.
The toffee is not of the brittle, crack-it-with-your-teeth variety.
"We're calling it Chicago-style toffee," McClamroch said. "It's not hard; it's softer and less difficult to chew."
The company's chocolatiers, whom he declined to name for competitive reasons, developed the toffee over a period of years, he explained; other products were developed within months.
The pretzel bites are marble-sized round pretzels coated with chocolate and sprinkles.
In addition to the product introductions, Affy Tapple has also increased the offerings at its factory store, 7425 N. Croname, Niles. The store now has a full display case of chocolate truffles in many flavors, as well as toffee. There are also gift baskets and many flavors of petite and jumbo Mrs. Prindable's apples, in addition to not-found-at-the-grocery-store flavors of Taffy Apples--such as those coated with crushed cinnamon candies.
The store is running promotions throughout October, including face painting for kids from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this weekend. A coloring contest and a raffle to win a factory tour (they're not usually offered) go through the end of October; and on Oct. 27 and 28, those who visit the store in costume will receive a free caramel apple.